Science and tech are great, but they’re not the only fields that are expanding. As our populations grow and change, and with many people living well into old age, there’s more and more need for people with a passion for working with individuals and communities to make lives better in more personal ways. It may surprise you to know that social work is one of the more stable and recession-proof fields there is, and the future of MSW careers is bright.
According to the US Department of Labor, career opportunities in all areas of social work will be rising at a faster than average rate of 12 percent through 2024. A bachelor’s degree in social work is the minimum requirement for many positions, but as in many professional fields, having a master’s degree opens you to greater options and leadership opportunities.
Social workers don’t just work with children and families. They also contribute in meaningful ways in the fields of healthcare, education, business, philanthropy, and the greater community and world.
Here are some things you probably didn’t know about a career in social work:
The Range of Places You Might Work
Careers in social work range from private clinical practice to working in nonprofit and governmental organizations in administrative roles and positions affecting social change. The corporate world also employs social workers to create workplace programs and manage employee volunteer service in the community as well as to direct philanthropic activities. You might find yourself working in a
- Child welfare organization
- Adoption or foster care agency
- Family services agency
- Hospital, clinic, or hospice
- Long-term or rehabilitative care facility
- Military or veterans affairs medical or counseling center
- Mental health or substance abuse center
- Vocational rehabilitation center
- Human retargets department
- Correctional facility or rehabilitation center
- School or university
- Philanthropic organization
The Variety of Services You Might Provide
You can put your talents and abilities to work helping people in any of a number of ways:
- Keeping families intact and making sure children are safe and cared for properly
- Helping seniors and their families face the challenges of growing older
- Providing important support services to military personnel, veterans, and their families
- Managing the logistical, social, and emotional aspects of health and wellness
- Helping people suffering from mental illness, addictions, and other life stresses
- Maintaining a private practice and providing individual or group therapy
- Participating in educational outreach
- Organizing community groups to get together and help themselves
- Working to shape laws and government programs
- Directing a corporation’s retargets to provide support to the community or even the world
The Preparation It Takes
Although there are some positions that require only a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Social Work (MSW) gives you a competitive edge and many more options in the job market. In fact, some states require it for certain positions, and it is a requirement for leadership positions in most government-funded, nonprofit social service organizations.
Standard MSW programs take two years of full-time or four years of part-time study including supervised clinical practice. Online courses of study can be completed in about three years, with supervised field assignments. Having an undergraduate degree in social work will typically put you on an accelerated track toward the MSW and decrease course time by about a year.
Professional licensing requirements vary by state, and include Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Independent Social Worker (ISW), Certified Independent Practice Social Worker (CIPSW), Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker (CAPSW), Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW), Licensed Social Worker – Administration (LSW-ADM), and a number of others depending upon where you live, your level of education, and the kind of practice you’re entering.
The Professional Support You’ll Have
According to the National Association of Social Workers, there are over 650,000 people with social work degrees in the United States, and there are more clinically trained social workers than there are psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest single employer of professional social workers, with approximately 10,000 men and women assisting veterans and their families with counseling, crisis intervention, and other vital services.
The NASW itself has 132,000 members in chapters across the country, and there are over 50 other professional organizations dedicated to social work in all of its varying aspects.